The decisions made by councils directly affect the fabric of the places and the nature of the communities in which we live. But ten years of austerity, combined with other complex, interconnected challenges, have demanded that local authorities change the ways they operate in new and inventive ways.
Across the country, beacons of innovation have appeared as local authorities experiment with different ways to address the complex challenges their communities face. The work of these councils signals a broader shift in the delivery of public services, demonstrating how we can face the challenges of the coming decade.
But in order to realise this potential and catalyse a wholesale shift in our approach to public services, we wanted to both understand the nature of this shift, and to support the pioneers to learn from and accelerate each other’s work, influencing and recruiting others.
The Upstream Collaborative ran from September 2019 until October 2020, bringing together a group of senior strategic practitioners from local authorities and their place partners to share experiences and learn from each other. Together they explored what works and what doesn’t, building a shared movement of local government leaders experimenting with new operating models to deliver upstream innovations.
The programme followed three phases:
- Discovery: We visited each team to learn more about their work and identify the drivers, barriers and enablers they have experienced as they innovate. Having aggregated the collected data we then analysed it and identified patterns and commonalities.
- Action learning: We brought the Collaborative together for a two day residential workshop, enabling members to connect, give and receive support and develop an understanding of how their work fits in the wider system. They formed workgroups around themes of common interest, committing to work together to develop their understanding and produce a shareable asset that would be useful for peers in the Collaborative and more widely.
- Sharing: The Nesta/Collaborate team used the insights from the discovery phase to develop a draft of the New Operating Models Framework, which we shared and discussed with the Collaborative and wider field at a series of online roundtables in April 2020. Supported by Collaborate and Centre for Public Impact, the workgroups drafted ideas, iterated and blogged about the project. It is the output from this work that we published as the New Operating Models Handbook.
COVID-19: The fast-moving nature and unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 crisis required the full attention of most of our members during March and April 2020. In response to this we pivoted our research approach, working with the Upstream Collaborative to explore the implications of COVID-19 on their ways of working.
The New Operating Models framework
To deliver Upstream initiatives effectively at scale requires the delivery organisation to adopt a new operating model.
Our research with the members of the Collaborative, alongside work from the wider field, informed the development of a framework that characterises what new operating models look like in practice. The framework shows how new operating models provide a bridge between purpose and outcomes. Mindset is at the heart, influencing the values and principles that enable a local authority to make use of its infrastructure and capabilities in ways that are collaborative, systemic and long term.
Find out more:
Introducing New Operating Models for Local Government
During the programme the members of the Upstream Collaborative formed workgroups, collaborating to help themselves and others develop their practice. These workgroups produced a set of learning products that explore how new operating models work in practice, and what changes can be made to help them become more widespread.
Find out more:
From the Margins to the Mainstream: How to create the conditions for new operating models to thrive
Reframing Risk: How to adopt new mindsets around risk that enable innovation
Asset-Based Community Development for Local Authorities: How to rebuild relationships with communities through asset-based approaches
Meaningful Measurement: How a new mindset around measurement can support a culture of continual learning - notes from the field
A Catalyst for Change: What COVID-19 has taught us about the future of local government